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LIFE

Ten tips to lower blood pressure

Many people suffer from high blood pressure. Tackle the problem with these useful tips, writes David Wilson

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 July, 2014, 3:13am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 July, 2014, 6:37am

You know the routine: you walk into the examining room, perch on the table, and roll up your sleeve. Your healthcare practitioner inflates the cuff until it feels oppressively snug.

"The silence in the room is broken only by the hiss of the cuff deflating," say health magazine editors, Sarí Harrar and Suzanne Steinbaum in their new book on tackling hypertension, which talks of a "blood pressure crisis".

High blood pressure raises your risk of heart attack and stroke, so don't let it become normal. Here are 10 tips to help you tackle high blood pressure naturally.

1. Curb the carbs

The first area to address is diet. A selective-carb diet is recommended for most people - especially if the fat is on your belly or you crave sugary food or beer, or you have diabetes or are over 55, says stress reduction teacher Leonie Stekelenburg.

"Most people have success with a selective-carb diet," Stekelenburg says.

The diet, documented on the Integrated Medicine Institute website, means embracing vegetable oils such as olive oil while also including healthy oils such as flaxseed. Also, do not skimp on high-fat foods, such as cheese and eggs, because, ironically, you need "good fat" to lose fat.

Eat plenty of vegetables as a filler - that way you can avoid feeling constantly hungry. Also ensure you have enough omega-3, which you can get from fish oil - the best assimilable source. Alternatives include nuts and two servings of omega-3-rich deep-sea fish each week.

2. Enlist delta force

Depending on the level in your blood it may also help to supplement your diet with extra vitamin D, says Stekelenburg. Low vitamin D levels can cause hypertension and hardening of artery walls, she says.

Vitamin D intake supports blood pressure regulation: adequate levels are associated with reduced stroke risk, says Stekelenburg.

3. Tackle stress through exercise

A leading cause of high blood pressure is anxiety, says stress management coach Dr Cathy Tsang-Feign. A key strategy for combating anxiety is exercise, she says, adding that you should be picky about the kind you do.

"Some people may need walking. Some people need swimming … personally, I do qigong," she says, referring to the ancient Chinese philiosophy of letting energy flow through the body.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, even light exercise such as walking or household chores helps lower blood pressure.

4. Look inside yourself

Make time to be introspective, Tsang-Feign says. That may mean meditation or taking some downtime.

Many people are fearful about being quiet, she says, echoing recent research showing that people would rather endure electric shocks than sit alone with their thoughts. Do not be afraid. Introspection is OK, Tsang-Feign says. You need time to connect with yourself: look inward at the underlying issues.

5. Sprinkle less salt

Excess salt is closely linked to hypertension. Most people eat too much of it, mostly from packaged, processed, and restaurant foods, according to Harrar and Steinbaum. When your kidneys fail to filter out the excess, it stays in your bloodstream, boosting blood volume and pressure. So hands off the salt shaker.

6. You can work it out

Evidence that strength training promotes healthier blood pressure began surfacing in the 1980s, when an American study of 1,600 people found that working out just twice a week could lower blood pressure by up to five points. More recent research confirms the benefits.

Understand that you lose two per cent or more of your muscle every decade.

That slows metabolism and packs on extra pounds because muscle burns more calories than fat, say Harrar and Steinbaum.

7. Gut reaction

The fat that you may gather around your waist is an independent cardiovascular disease risk factor, according to Harrar and Steinbaum.

The growth of a belly can reduce your ability to metabolise sugars, spawning insulin resistance, high blood pressure and more. So trim your circumference through diet and exercise.

8. I should cocoa The most appealing blood pressure reduction technique must be to eat chocolate, which contains flavonols: remarkable compounds that make blood vessels more elastic. In one study, 18 per cent of patients who ate chocolate every day saw their blood pressure drop.

So treat yourself to a chunk of chocolate daily, ensuring the brand you choose is at least 70 per cent cocoa.

9. Dash in the plan

Other sources recommend the Dash diet, otherwise known as the "dietary approaches to stop hypertension" diet. It means eating foods that are low in cholesterol and saturated fat, and focusing on balanced nutrition. You know the procedure. Plenty of fruits and veggies, whole grains, and low- or no-fat dairy products.

Despite its simplicity, following the Dash strategy may result in a dramatic blood pressure drop.

10. Be here now

A man once asked Buddha if he was a god, to which he answered, "No, I am just awake."

That's a good tip to follow: be present and mindful. Many people stumble through life on autopilot, rarely entering the present. Instead, they worry about the future or ruminate on the past, spiking stress levels.

life@scmp.com